Sunday, August 18, 2019

With passion

This week, the scriptures provide us with examples of passionate commitment.  In the first reading, we hear the story of Jeremiah, someone who wasn't afraid to stand with the Lord.  When he dared to speak God's truth to a stubborn, corrupt king, he was thrown down a well (Jer 38:6) and left there to die, yet this did not deter him from his commitment to doing what God had asked of him.

This past week, we celebrated the Liturgical Memorial of Saint Maximillian Kolbe, a Polish Franciscan priest who lived in the early part of the 20th century.  Passionately committed to promoting devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, he established and supervised a monastery near Warsaw, operated an amateur radio station and was involved in many other organizations and publications, each one of them aimed at promoting faith among God's people.  During the second World War, he was imprisoned at Auschwitz.  There he volunteered to take the place of another man who had been condemned to die.  He is now part of the great cloud of witnesses (cf Heb 12:1), people of faith who have given their lives for the gospel.

In today's gospel, Jesus says that he will bring division, not peace (cf Lk 12:51).  When we face a hostile reaction for choosing to follow Christ, we are challenged to go deeper into the heart of Jesus.  How do we contend with the cross of insults, gossip, broken relationships and family quarrels?  The writer of the letter to the Hebrews challenges us to look to Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith (Heb 12:2).  Jesus presents us blameless before his Father.  Sometimes, along the road that leads us to our ultimate goal, we encounter humiliation, but this is the road that leads us to eternity.

The Holy Spirit provides us with the skills we need to remain committed to following Jesus.  We can even accept suffering if we understand it as having redemptive value according to God's plan.  If we truly embrace this truth, we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength (cf Phil 4:13).

Friday, August 16, 2019

His Word Today: Saint Stephen of Hungary

Good morning everyone,

Today, we pray with Saint Stephen of Hungary (circa 975 AD - 15 August 1038).  Not all details about his life are clearly documented, but it seems that he served as the last Grand Prince of the Hungarians from 997 to 1001 and then as the first King of Hungary from 1001 until his death in 1038.  He was the first member of his family to become a devout Christian.  His country enjoyed a lasting period of peace during his reign and provided a preferred route for pilgrims and merchants travelling between Western Europe and the Holy Land or Constantinople.  Following his death in 1038, there was civil war in Hungary for many years.

The life of a peacemaker is never easy.  In order for him to be successful, he had to be very wise and possess clarity of thought and a keen intellect.  We see evidence of both these traits in the gospel passage provided today (cf Mt 19:3-12).  Some Pharisees approached Jesus and tested him, saying: 'Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife ...'? (Mt 19:3).  Jesus had to tread very lightly in order to bring clarity to this teaching, but he did manage to find his way.

At times, there are questions placed before us that need serious thought and reflection before we act on them or provide our answers.  Saint Stephen reminds us that it is never a bad idea to pray for the gifts of clarity and intellect, and to use these gifts for the good of those we are called to serve.

Have a great day.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

His Word Today: Assumption of the Blessed Virgin

Good morning everyone,

Today, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  The details of this celebration are not spelled out in the scriptures but rather in the lived tradition of the Church.  According to this tradition, we believe that when the Virgin Mary completed her earthly life, she was assumed, body and soul, into heaven.  She is the only human being who is believed to have been accorded this privilege - with the exception of Jesus himself.

The gospel passage proposed for today's eucharistic celebration is that of the Visitation.  It provides an example of Mary's generosity: that at the time when she learned of her own special place in the plan of salvation, she did not choose to remain focused on herself, but rather she travelled to the hill country with haste ... where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth (Lk 1:39-40).

Today, let us ask Mary, who was obedient to God's plan to intercede on our behalf.  With her help, may we be courageous and trusting enough to say yes to the Lord whenever He may call out to us.  Our God is calling each one of us, never to a situation that will bring us harm, but always to new, refreshing and exciting ways in which we can cooperate in the unfolding of his great and loving plan.

Have a great day.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

His Word Today: Saint Maximillian Kolbe

Good morning everyone,

Today, the Church celebrates the liturgical memorial of Saint Maximillian Kolbe, a Polish-born priest, a Conventual Franciscan who was imprisoned and died in the German death camp at Auschwitz during the second World War.

The gospel passage appointed for today's liturgical celebration focuses on the words of Jesus: ... love one another as I have loved you.  No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends (Jn 15:12-13).  The life of Saint Maximillian helps us to understand these words more clearly.  At a time in history when people were being persecuted for their belief in God, he promoted the veneration of the Immaculate Virgin Mary and founded a monastery in Warsaw.  At a time in history when intellectuals were being suppressed, he operated an amateur radio station which he used to spread the gospel.

At this moment in history, we too face challenges if we aim to follow the advice that was outlined by Jesus: a call to love one another as he has loved us ... willingly, radically and unreservedly.  Not all of us are called to lay down our lives for others, but all of us are called to love.  If Jesus could love us to the point of giving his life for us, and if saints like Maximillian have shown us that it is possible to follow Jesus' example, to what point would we be willing to go in order to live our faith?

Have a great day.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

His Word Today: Greatest

Good morning everyone,

One of the marks that distinguishes a good teacher is an ability to explain very complicated concepts in simple terms.  This is not easy to do, but it is one way that we can identify those who truly understand.  Jesus is one such teacher.  The gospel accounts point out many occasions when he spoke about very complicated concepts using words and examples that made these ideas come alive in the hearts of those who heard him speak.

In today's gospel passage, the disciples pose a question: Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? (Mt 18:1), and Jesus surprises them by explaining that greatness - in the kingdom - will not be measured by any degree of physical accomplishment, but rather by our ability to become like children (Mt 18:3).  In other words, it will not be enough to simply be able to explain the kingdom in language that children can understand; we ourselves must become like them.

Saint John Paul II often told us that we should all strive for heaven.  If this is true - and we should all believe it to be so - then we should constantly strive not only to know about Jesus, but to know him.  Our God is constantly seeking opportunities to meet us - in prayer, in other people and in the circumstances of our lives - and he rejoices when we come to him like little children seeking to place our trust in him.

Have a great day.

Monday, August 12, 2019

His Word Today: Overwhelmed

Good morning everyone,

In today's gospel passage (Mt 17:22-27), we have a glimpse into the intimate words that Jesus shared with his disciples.  Those twelve were not so different from us, for when Jesus said to them: The Son of Man is to be handed over to men, and they will kill him ... (Mt 17:22-23), they were overwhelmed with grief.

We too are overwhelmed at times when we consider all the suffering that we encounter: people who are experiencing fears and doubts, others who are grieving, still others who seem to have any myriad of questions, all of which demand attention, even if they cannot be adequately answered in a satisfactory length of time.  Just as the disciples contemplated what it might be like to face the world without Jesus at their side, we too must at times entertain such thoughts.  If we have begun to experience life with Jesus, we will never want to be deprived of his company.

When we find ourselves having to face situations that seem to overwhelm us, let us turn confidently toward Jesus.  Let us ask him to remain close to us and to always remind us that he was raised on the third day (Mt 17:23).  This was and always will be the conclusion of the Christian story: he suffered, he died and he was raised on the third day.  What an eloquent source of hope this is for us and for all those who are searching.

Have a great day.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Preparing through work and play

These days of warmth and sunshine permit us to change our routines a little bit.  Adults take time for some rest and relaxation, we learn to re-create and we may even take time to play.  No matter what age we are, it is always good to allow ourselves a bit of time for unstructured play: it allows children to act out their favorite stories and to recreate the adventures of their heroines and heroes.  Such unstructured activities have a purpose: they provide us with the opportunity to prepare ourselves for our future.

From one Sunday to the next, we are invited to reflect on what the future will hold.  We do this through stories, parables and lessons that we hear in this place.  The Book of Wisdom, from which we read today, tells us of a people who were enslaved in Egypt, yet were preparing for a new life that was to come.  These people trusted in the promises of God for the deliverance of the righteous and the destruction of their enemies.  Even before their release from bondage, already they were singing the praises of the ancestors (Wis 18:6-9).  How often do we give thanks for the holy people who have preceded us, shared the gift of faith with us and helped us to grow in our own faith?

The Letter to the Hebrews reminds us of the lives of great women and men of the Old Testament.  It shows us how their faith sustained them no matter what challenges they faced.  Abraham continued to believe, even when he was asked to sacrifice his only son (cf Heb 11:8-10).  Have we developed such wholehearted trust in God?

Luke's parables about the alert slaves and the faithful manager (cf Lk 12:35-40) call us to be ready for whatever may come.  Where is our treasure?  Where is our heart?  These weekly passages and our daily actions, whether at play or at work, continually help us to live God's word.